Category Archives: Xbox 360

Kalypso Confirms Official Tropico 5 Xbox 360 Release Date with New Pre-Launch Trailer

El Presidente has spoken, the borders are open and soon the island shall be released from the political stranglehold of PC and will be free for visit from players of all platforms! Tropico 5 for the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system from Microsoft is now officially confirmed for a November 11 release. To celebrate, El Presidente would like to share his latest experiment in video propaganda with any fans thinking of starting a new life on the pleasant island of Tropico. Watch the official pre-launch trailer below for a brief overview of Tropico’s booming llama industry, slightly below-average housing standard and overwhelming natural beauty.

The Limited Special Edition package includes:

  • ‘The ‘Bayo del Olfato’ DLC
  • Bonus ‘The Big Cheese’ DLC included!
  • A printed Tropico passport
  • Your very own Tropico postcard!

Tropico 5 is out across North America on Xbox 360 via retail and Xbox Live Marketplace on November 11 – with a PlayStation®4 version coming in early 2015. Tropico 5 is also out now on PC, Mac & SteamOS – for more information visit the official Tropico 5 website: www.worldoftropico.com.

About Tropico 5 Packed with a whole host of new gameplay features and all new artwork designed from scratch, Tropico 5 takes the series into a new and exciting direction – dynasties!

You, as El Presidente, will first take control of the infamous island of Tropico during early colonial times and then guide it through the centuries as the world changes and moves ever forward. You must tackle the changing needs of your people, as well as opposing governments and factions, and thus lay the foundations for your own dynasty. As you move through your years in office you can promote members of your extended family on the island to positions of power: such as ambassador, commanding general or even Supreme Ruler, to ensure your legacy thrives through the eras.

As well as a wealth of other new features, including advanced trading mechanics, technology, scientific research trees and island exploration, Tropico 5 will add cooperative and competitive multiplayer for the first time in the series’ history! Viva El Presidente!

For more information on Tropico 5 please visit the official Tropico 5 website at www.worldoftropico.com.

Mutant Blobs Attack Review – Xbox 360

Originally released as a launch title for the PS Vita, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack eventually found its way to home consoles after a little over two-year wait. Starting off as a small blob that’s just escaped from an experimental lab, players work their way through frat houses, army bases and even space itself, consuming anything and everything in their path.

Mutant Blobs Attack plays as a 2D platformer, with minimal controls aside from moving left and right and using the A button to jump. Although later stages of the game unlock extra abilities, such as rocket thrusters and telekinesis, the vast bulk of the game is spent working your way from left to right through levels, overcoming various navigational obstacles and deciphering numerous special puzzles.

One of the strongest elements of Mutant Blobs Attack is its difficulty curve. Through the course of the game you never feel as though the challenge placed in front of you is unfair, or that you haven’t been trained how to overcome it, even if a little bit of forethought and planning is required. The extra abilities that are introduced are eased upon the player gently, and although the latter levels are certainly challenging and occasionally prove frustrating, it’s never due to a fault in the game, but more likely down to the player themselves making elementary mistakes.

Aesthetically, Mutant Blobs Attack closely resembles a Saturday morning cartoon, mixed with a dash of Namco’s Katamari series. There’s no proper spoken dialogue in the game, merely a form of speech similar to the parents in the Peanuts animation. Despite this, it’s never difficult to tell what’s supposed to be happening, even if the story itself is a very basic B-Movie premise of a blob getting bigger and bigger, consuming everything in its path. It’s this absorption of matter that gives Mutant Blobs Attack its resemblance to the Katamari games, as throughout the various levels, and indeed the game itself, your blob gets larger as it absorbs objects, which progress from peanuts and red plastic cups to phone booths and people, and onto helicopters and tanks, and even asteroids and planets.

Like Drinkbox Studios’ later game, Guacamelee!, Mutant Blobs Attack features a subtle sense of the humor that relies heavily on Internet memes for its laughs. Various puns are made via store signs or posters within the game, and though they never stick out in a ‘look at me!’ style, they do offer a nice distraction as you’re rolling around the levels. The background music sticks to this theme as well, never becoming so overdone as to become unwelcome, but instead complimenting the B-movie atmosphere that the visuals and gameplay work hard to achieve.

The only major downside to Mutant Blobs Attack is its length. Although the game offers 25 levels, along with an extra four mini-levels, each particular stage only take about five minute to complete, leaving the entire game with a finishing time of just over a couple of hours. Once finished, there isn’t much incentive to go back through again, even though there are other blobs to rescue hidden within the levels, and leaderboard scores to achieve. In fairness, the concept of Mutant Blobs Attack would probably have felt a little stretched had it gone on much longer, but the length of the game is definitely something to be aware of pre-purchase.

Mutant Blobs Attack is a great little game if you’re looking for something different to cleanse your gaming palate for a couple of hours. Though its mixture of platforming and puzzles never really shows anything that hasn’t been done before, it never attempts to have the player believe otherwise, and it’s rare for a game to do what it sets out to this well. Mutant Blobs Attack is a finely crafted addition to the platforming stable, and is highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.

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Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition Review – Xbox 360

Blackgate is a companion to Batman: Arkham Origins and continues the storyline from that game. The Deluxe Edition is a console port of the original release on the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, though with “new maps, enemy encounters, difficulty levels, batsuits, and enhanced visuals,” according to the Xbox Live store description.

Speaking of which, as a heads-up, I haven’t played either the original 3DS or Vita versions or Batman: Arkham Origins, so I’ll be reviewing this as a standalone title. I played it on the Normal difficulty for this review.

As Batman, the player follows a lead from Captain Gordon to investigate an explosion at Blackgate Prison and ends up entering the prison to rescue hostages held by the now former inmates. Presented in 2.5D—i.e., with 3D-rendered graphics and dynamic camera angles but limited 2D side-scrolling movement—Blackgate’s gameplay is primarily action-adventure and stealth, with some mild platforming elements thrown in. While Batman isn’t able to jump in this game, he does jump automatically when running off a ledge and can use his cape to glide across gaps or down drops, grapple to reach higher areas, and crouch to duck into tighter spaces. As the game progresses, he also collects additional tools that add new capabilities, such as zip lining or grappling and pulling objects, often to unlock new areas. All in all, Blackgate plays like a relatively simplistic Metroidvania-style game complete with backtracking to previous areas to explore previously inaccessible locations.

Combat feels basic but smooth, primarily involving only four actions: moving, attacking, countering, or stunning. The game makes choosing the right move at the right time fairly easy, as it’ll give the player an obvious signal when Batman needs to make a certain move at a given time, and the reaction time given is reasonably generous, even in boss battles. While targeting an intended enemy isn’t always very easy to do in Blackgate, the combat is forgiving enough that it’s not a big problem. It may not be entirely realistic that baddies conveniently line up in 2D to be punched in the face, and generally only one guy attacks Batman at any given time, but it saves some gameplay headaches.

At times, jumping into the fray isn’t the best course of action, as there are some heavily armed enemies that make short work of Batman if attacked head-on. In these situations, the game has a Detective Mode that’s used to inspect enemies and analyze environmental features that can be used strategically, as well as search for clues, which give insight into the story and unlock concept art. It took a little trial and error for me to figure out how to play the first stealth sequence, since the game didn’t explain it very clearly during the tutorial portion, but it’s fairly straightforward after that. Even when I wasn’t faced with assault rifle-bearing thugs, I found myself using Detective Mode throughout the game just to pick up clues and spot hidden treasure.

It’s useful to keep an eye out because finding items is the only way Batman levels up, so to speak. It’s not entirely clear to me why valuable WayneTech doodads are hidden throughout a prison instead of already equipped on Batman’s person, but I’ll give that detail a pass. Other than the necessary tools I mentioned earlier, various optional items, such as armor pieces, are stashed in crates throughout Blackgate, and they’re not always in plain view, so hunting them down is one of the more fun challenges of the game.

Throughout the game, Batman interacts with a number of familiar characters from the series—including villains Catwoman, Joker, Penguin, and Black Mask, all fully voiced. The voice acting isn’t half bad, fortunately, and fits the characters. The background score isn’t anything to write home about and is more ambient than memorable, but it nevertheless matches the grimy, creepy prison environment to a T.

Graphically, Blackgate is also pretty decent-looking, with reasonably lifelike animations and fluid camera movement. The cut scenes are partially animated hand-drawn illustrations that convey comic-book flavor to the game during key moments. The rest of the game’s 3D-rendered graphics are detailed and appropriately dark, distressed, and industrial for an Arkham prison and set a pleasantly gloomy, ominous atmosphere.

It’s also true, though, that many of the environments end up looking similar because of the setting. Because many areas in the game are somewhat similarly designed (probably because most of the game takes place in the same prison), and the game has Batman returning to the same areas multiple times, the surroundings can get a little monotonous after a while. Then again, maybe it’s meant to be played in small chunks, given that the game conveniently auto-saves at many locations, and playing just a few hours a night broke up the repetition enough that it didn’t bother me all that much.

Lengthwise, Blackgate is about average, and there’s not much incentive for replaying it after the first run. If you like collecting things, Batman has a huge wardrobe of batsuits you can assemble, and there are those aforementioned clues that unlock game concept art, but that’s about it. Overall, the game may not stand out as a top contender in the action-adventure genre, either in terms of gameplay depth or challenge level, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition is currently available for $19.99 as a digital download from Xbox Live—about the price of a typical 3DS game, which seems reasonable, given its roots and average overall depth of content. I haven’t played the original on the 3DS or Vita and can’t say exactly what’s different between the two versions, but the Deluxe is the only edition available on the Xbox 360, in any case.

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Dark Souls II Review – Xbox 360

There are few games that challenge a gamer’s sanity, patience and skills more than the critically acclaimed Souls series by developer From Software. I learned this firsthand with the release of the original Dark Souls a few years ago, so when I heard they were making a sequel to an already legendarily hard game I was both intrigued and instantly filled with a certain level of anxiety at the thought of its release. That said I actually welcomed the chance to see how From Software could take a great formula and make it better with the release of Dark Souls II for the Xbox 360.

Dark Souls II takes players to the remains of a kingdom in ruins in the land of Drangleic. This once grand kingdom is now the gathering location for cursed individuals like yourself. After being drawn to Drangleic like a moth to the proverbial flame, you are trapped amongst others like you destined to collect souls to stave off the effects of Hollowing that all who are cursed will undoubtedly happen. Once a person becomes hollow they begin to lose the memories of who they are only to die or wander the lands a shell of their former self. The story that follows is revealed in small doses as you task yourself with finding four of the oldest souls in the former kingdom and defeating them to possibly have a chance to break the curse.

Dark Souls fans and veterans will have little trouble getting into the literal “swing of things” in this sequel. While this game has no direct ties to its predecessor it does carry over many of the original’s mechanics that made it the excruciating but enjoyable game that it was. The game is still…well brutally hard by series standards, though there are several new tweaks to the game’s formula that make it more accessible to newcomers looking to discover the series for the first time. Having played the original which throws you right into a boss fight five minutes after you start, Dark Souls II is decidedly a bit easier with a built-in tutorial behind a row of fogged doors. Veteran players can forgo these easily, going right for the good stuff while newcomers might find them useful to stay alive just a bit longer; not that it matters a great deal. Even as the first achievement pops saying “Welcome to Dark Souls” you’ll learn very quickly that death encompasses everything throughout your adventure.

Not long after the opening video and meeting of the Flame Keepers (three old women), you get to create what your character looks like and kind of class you want. There are a few less class options this time around as the Thief, Pyromancer, Wanderer and Hunter classes have been removed, but the item-laden Explorer and dual wielding Swordsman classes join the returning mixture. Beginners may find the Warrior class easiest to work with though each class has their own strengths and weaknesses. Leveling up your character though with the use of souls gathered from defeated enemies can up your proficiency in other area like dexterity for using bows. Unlike the previous game, enemies that aren’t bosses will stop spawning to keep players from soul farming enemies in any given area to keep players from becoming overpowered and thus breaking the balance of the game and its difficulty.

Several other changes have been made to the formula while still managing a near perfect balance of combat, challenge, item usage and navigation of the world. For starters, you no longer have to give up a piece of your humanity to kindle a bonfire which are the game’s save points of sorts. Humanity however is precious as you instantly go into a state of Hollowing when you die. Due to the fact that you will be dying a lot, usually due to player error or sheer bad luck, you will continue to lose a chunk of your maximum Health Points until it bottoms out at 50% with each following death. The preciously few items called Human Effigies can be consumed or burned at bonfires to return you to human state and reset your max health to its previous state. Burning them will also reduce the chance that another player will invade your world for a while, which is quite nice.

Bonfires themselves have undergone a few changes  Leveling up your character is no longer available and you must now visit the Emerald Herald in the town of Majula, the main hub of the game, to level up with the souls you have collected as well as give any found Estus Flask shards to increase the amount of Estus charges you can have at any given time. The biggest thing that From Software added to the bonfires is the ability to fast travel between any of the bonfires that you’ve lit along your journey. While this could come off as a making the game easier for a wider audience, I actually welcomed the feature. This does eliminate charging back through the same enemies over and over again just to get a bit farther than your last death or at least to get back to your body and your dropped souls, but I don’t feel that it cheapens the overall soul-crushing effect that Dark Souls will have on even the best of players. You can also light torches that you find at bonfires as well as from sconces that you’ve previously lit along the way though each torch runs on a timer that counts down when in use.

I have to say that despite every death I suffered I really enjoyed the refined combat system. As I started getting bigger and better weapons I couldn’t help but notice the weight behind those attacks, as it took large chunks of my stamina bar away with a single swing, and I hoped to God that the enemy was still in front of me when the blade fell. You see enemies will take advantage of any failed attempt to hit them with an attack of their own; some of which can be quite devastating to your character and your moral.

But what I like most is that the physics of the game accounts for the environment around you while in combat. If you happen to be attacking in a tight confined hallway there is the chance that your attack could bounce off a pillar instead of hitting the thing coming right at you even if you’re using the targeting system. There are times where an enemy’s weapon got stuck in a wall or the ground leaving me a few precious moments to get in a few quick attacks. Other times I would think that I could use a support pillar to guard against an enemy attack only to learn that some enemies can swing right through them taking out a chunk of the pillar in the process.

Enemies are much more dogged in their attempt to take you down as they will follow you sometimes though entire passageways or up and down ladders. Ladders are particularly dangerous as you are completely helpless while on them. A welcome tip that I didn’t learn till some time after several hours of playing completely by accident is that you can shimmy or slid down ladders quickly by holding down B and aiming up or down on the left analog stick at the cost of some of your stamina. Enemies, especially some of the bigger ones and a boss or two actually will use gravity to take you out much like you can do to them.  I felt completely humiliated the only time one of those tortoise looking knights purposely fell back on me as I attempted an increasingly more difficult backstab maneuver. If you can pull these off it’s fun to watch as you brain some enemy with a mace or whatever your using at the time.

Equipping gear and items has never been easier as From Software has made the menu screens a lot cleaner and easier to read, explaining things a bit better than the previous title. The cleaner HUD also makes it easier to see the degradation of your weapons. If your weapons like a shield or sword takes too much damage it breaks and can no longer be used unless it is repaired, though if you visit a bonfire before that happens its strength is returned to full. it’s generally a good idea to carry multiple weapons with you however in the chance that you are nowhere near one of these bonfires.

The graphics that fill the distances between these temporary havens are both haunting and beautiful as you make your way through the remains of a once beautiful kingdom. Players will gladly welcome the sun-filled cliff side town of Majula for the first time or the hundredth time that they lay their eyes on it after returning from an area such as the Shaded Woods where fog and other horrors await within. The lighting in Dark Souls II is actually quite good and I often times found myself wandering though dark corridors or tunnels slowly just to watch the effects of the light against the walls. The character models of both your created character and those of the ones trying to end your life are all wonderfully and often horrifyingly detailed. Even the dying world of Drangleic feels alive as you watch the fur or cloth of your outfits or the very grass and plants around you moving in the wind. I also absolutely love the draw distance that this game has much like the first game. In some instances you can chart the very path you took to get where you are in this massive world just by looking off into the distance.

As with its predecessor, Dark Souls II has an awesome audio package in place. The score alone is creepy as all get out, though it’s some of the voice acting that might set you on edge a bit more like that of the talking cat Shalqouir that you meet in Majula. On the note of conversation it’s a really good idea to exhaust all topics that an NPC might have as you are often rewarded with items, shops gestures or the probability that some of them will relocate to Majula as you progress through the game. Sound effects, much like the first game, play a big part in letting you know what you are about to run into before you see it, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve saved myself a painful death by hearing telltale sounds of heavily armored foes or the ting of an arrow bouncing off the wall near my head from a distant archer. This doesn’t always help though, as some enemies are devious and can’t be easily heard over other sounds.

One of the things that I liked, and to some extent dreaded in the original Dark Souls was the co-op aspects such as summoning other players to your world for help or the unfortunate event of other players invading your world to rob you of your souls. There are Covenants, such as the Blue Sentinels, found within Dark Souls II that once joined will either summon you or others to aid a player against invading real players. My favorite part of the online community of Dark Souls II however is the ability to read messages left by other players to aid or hinder your quest. If you possess a particular item you can even leave messages of your own. In my travels, I came across some evil-intended messages, but for the most part players offered up good sound advice, so reading these messages can often spare you a few deaths or gain you treasures and other rewards.

Dark Souls II, like its predecessor, is one brutally hard game that can attempted in any way you see fit. Even with the new and returning features from Demon’s Souls like the Emerald Herald’s similarity in function to the Maiden in Black, the game still offer up a great challenge with every opportunity to put yourself in the proverbial doghouse for making the wrong decisions along the way. Be it busting through a closed door or offing the wrong NPC (just don’t do this), there is always something that will rear its ugly head to make you pay for those actions even if the consequences are not blatantly revealed to you at first.

Even after 40-50+ hours, I found Dark Souls II to be an extremely rewarding adventure where, for every misstep that spelled my doom, there was always some gratifying moment of satisfaction as I overcame some sadistically hard area or epic fight later on. There are very few games out there that can instill this kind of response and right now Dark Souls II sits really high on that short list. If you love a brutally hard challenge or are a fan of the Souls series then you have to check out Dark Souls II for the Xbox 360.

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Earth Defense Force 2025 Review – Xbox 360

I’m a big fan of “bad movies”.  You know; the kind that you would see on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The kind that were supposed to be serious back in the day but that have now become laughably bad when compared to modern day standards and expectations.  And that is pretty much how I felt when playing Earth Defense Force 2025.   While I never reviewed the original EDF 2017 back in 2007 I did play and review the PS Vita version that released in 2013.  Ironically, nearly every criticism I leveled on that game can be said about the full-on sequel and possibly more.

The entire time I spent playing Earth Defense Force 2025 I was waiting for those silhouettes to pop-up in the lower corner of the screen and start tossing out random insults.  Everything is fair game for criticism in this sequel as there has apparently been no effort to improve the quality of the presentation or gameplay.  If anything, the gameplay is less involved and more repetitive than EDF 2017.  The only time I started to have fun was when we all decided to turn EDF 2025 into a drinking game and take a drink every time we heard the phrase, “giant insects”.    We had to make a beer run after two chapters and by chapter 16 two of the staff suffered from kidney failure.   Yes, plan to hear the words “giant insects” repeated multiple times per radio broadcast and usually two to three times in the same sentence.

The game starts with no story whatsoever.  Your chosen soldier class is plopped down into the city and giant ants start to scamper about the streets and skyscrapers devouring citizens while the guy on the radio laments the resurgence of “giant insects” after they were supposedly defeated seven years ago.   Apparently they have just been waiting and breeding for their comeback tour.  For the most part you have unlimited ammo for either of your two weapons, so you run around killing everything with more than two legs and picking up all sorts of loot the ants and spiders carry around, then sort through it all in post-missions debriefings.

There are four character classes; the Ranger who is your conventional fighter that  can lay down infinite firepower with assault rifles and rocket launchers, and the Air Raider who can call in air strikes and summon vehicles like tanks.  The Fencer is a slow-moving heavily armored brute that can blast his way through all but the most serious encounters while the Wing Diver is a fast-moving soldier able to fly around.  His light armor makes him easier to kill so you have to always keep on the move to avoid taking damage while unleashing your own with a nifty collection of energy weapons.

edf2025classes

The big issue with the class system is that if you are playing alone you almost have to go with the Ranger as most of the others are more support classes.  This isn’t an issue if you are playing in two-player local co-op or four-player online co-op.  Truth be told, the game gets exponentially better with each new person added to the experience, but trying to find anyone actually playing this game is more trouble than its worth.  Playing alone has its own issues, and no matter how many squads you recruit they almost always die early on leaving you to finish the level by yourself going up against impossible odds.  Levels get depressingly long and with no mid-mission checkpoints death means restarting from the very beginning.

Out of the 20-some levels there were a few moments of genuine enjoyment; most of which were always when something new was being introduced like a spider that could shoot you with a sticky strand and pull you into its web, or when the aliens finally attack and you are attacking titan-size robots walking out of the ocean or shooting down city-sized UFO’s with a sniper rifle.  And while these were fun the first and even second time you experience them, the game keeps throwing them back at you time and time again to the point where you just don’t want to play anymore.

The presentation is really bad with graphics that may even be worse than those in EDF 2017.  Building textures repeat to create uninspired cities loaded with jaggies and poor draw distance.  Ants and spiders crawl awkwardly around the architecture, never quite making contact with anything.   Buildings crumble into rubble that you can magically pass right through, but exploded insect body parts are solid and will cause instant death if an ant segment plops in front of you just as you fired that rocket launcher.   Music is forgettable, NPC dialogue is hilariously bad and annoyingly repetitive, and the sound effects drone on to the point where you just want to turn the sound way down.

Earth Defense Force 2025 seems more at place in the arcade; one of those games with four big plastic machine guns aimed at a 60” screen.   For a home console game this is a joke; a bad joke.  I understand there is a cult following for this genre and even this particular franchise, but this is the kind of game I would expect at the beginning of a new system lifecycle; not the end.   This might be acceptable as a $15 marketplace game but there is no way I could recommend this game at the discounted $50 retail price or even the $20 bargain bin where this game is ultimately headed.   The only thing more deadly than “giant insects” is allowing games like this to be made and played.   If you see Earth Defense Force 2025 on the shelf take a cue from the civilians in the game and run screaming in the opposite direction.

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World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition Review – Xbox 360

There are some things that are almost universally true about the gaming community when it comes to military titles. Top on that list is that we like to hear things go boom and in a big way. This goes double when you’re the one pulling the trigger with an enemy in your sights and nothing says military like a several ton World War II tank. A while back I got my first look at Wargaming West’s Beta for World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and I’ve been very eager to see what the finished product would bring ever since. Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to dive in to the finished product as World of Tanks: 360 Edition hit the Xbox Live Marketplace globally this month and I’m here to give my SitRep.

World of Tanks: 360 Edition for those who are not already accustomed to the PC version is a hybrid comprised of elements from the MMO, FPS, RPG and Simulation genres all in one nice little package. Much like the PC version it’s important to know that World of Tanks: 360 Edition is free-to-play though only for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. With that said if you are a Gold member then you are in for a lot of fun after the initial 2.5GB install with more content to be released later including maps and new tanks.

World of Tanks has a lot of things going for it that I absolutely love starting with its MMO and RPG elements. Tanks are powerful devastating machines though not always for the same reasons in battle and that’s something Wargaming West really tapped into with this game. Much like an MMO, there are five different classes of tanks: light, medium, heavy, tank destroyers and artillery to utilize. You only have access to a handful of Tier I tanks to start out with more tanks becoming available as you move up in the tier ladder all the way to Tier X. While tank destroyers and artillery tanks are out of your reach at first, the light and medium tanks will help you get acquainted with the controls and tactical applications that each machine offers to the team.

While I like the big lumbering Tank Destroyers and Artillery units that can take out enemies at a distance thanks to their heavy frontal armor and long range turrets, I’m particularly fond of the light tanks like the German Pz.Kpfw. II or the M3 Stuart American tanks. These highly mobile units can clear great distances offering recon support for the other class tanks by spotting enemy tanks at decent ranges allowing for your teammates to find them on the battlefield and even going so far as to call imminent threats to your base or team. These units however lack heavy armor and all tagged tanks will disappear from your team’s radar if you are destroyed. Players who prefer a more up close and personal battle would feel right at home using the medium tanks like the German Panther or American M4 Sherman. Medium tanks may lack the higher speeds of the light class but function amazingly well in packs on a well-coordinated team especially against tank destroyers’ weak rear armor. Heavy tanks, like the American T14, on the other hand work well as route deterrents as long as the player works to protect its vulnerabilities.

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition may be based on its PC counterpart but I have to say that it handles amazingly well with a controller. A large part of lasting in matches is how well you adapt to each tank’s simulated handling over diverse terrain and how to aim and actually damage your opponents. Like a real world tank, your vehicles in World of Tanks actually are slowed down when going through terrain like swamps. Every tank in the game is a little different even within the same class so it’s up to the pilot to learn each one’s strengths and weaknesses. You can however use the environment as a form of camouflage or cover in combat which is great for getting the drop on the enemy at times as you have a few seconds to do some damage as both you and them become viewable to each other via Second Sight.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a free-to-play game as I mentioned and with that comes the micro transactions. It is possible to play this game without paying a dime though but for those seeking a viable edge you can spend real money to purchase the gold required to for instance become a Premium player for a set amount of time or apply camo to your vehicles permanently. Now depending on the game, I don’t really cough up cash to gain an advantage, but the system in place here does give the player a remarkable advantage both in the ammo you can buy and the experience and credits earned in combat to make it a little worthwhile.

Participating in battle, win or lose, nets you two kinds of XP and silver based upon your contributions to the battle. The better you do the more you rake in. This is where the RPG system comes into play as you use your hard earned silver to purchase packages and tanks. The two kinds of experiences or XPs earned are regular XP (silver stars) and Free XP (gold stars) and both are used to research upgrades to your current tanks or towards new ones. The silver stars are only useable on the tanks that earn them through your usage of them though a small percentage of your earned XP gets turned into Free XP which can be used towards any tank or upgrade research. In true RPG form though the next tier of tanks cannot be accessed or purchased with silver until you research the prerequisite tank or package. Luckily you don’t have to actually buy the items to proceed up the tree you just have to research them. If you find yourself loving a particular tank you can make it an Elite tank by researching all of its packages and the connected tanks around it. This gives the ability to convert all XP earned on that tank into Free XP for a fee which I found extremely useful.

One of my earlier impressions of World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition was that I really liked their recreated portrayal of famous World War II tanks graphically. That roster has now been upgraded to over 100 different tanks from the U.S.A., Germany and the UK with more tanks to come. These machines of destruction look good as you roll through fences leaving tank treads tracks in the earth as you go. Environments are also destructible to a point such as blowing out a wall that’s being used for cover by another tank though sometimes crops don’t fall under your might as you roll though some maps. The maps themselves are also quite diverse with new maps being released. World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition utilizes a third-person perspective as the default view for maneuvering your tanks over the terrain but like any good military shooter the best view for taking down enemy tanks is right down the barrel first person style. Doing this is not only crucial for firing on distant targets but really puts you in the firing seat visually. It also helps that World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition also features a clean and easy to read HUD and menus.

As with my preview the audio doesn’t disappoint as you hear the roar of the engines and the sound of tank treads moving. You can even hear the sound of the turret swiveling as you aim down the sights before firing a deafening shot. I know guys and gals love explosions but a little caution should be exercised if you’re wearing a headset to chat and strategize while playing this. Each tank that I tried also sounded a little different from each other to fit their size and type instead of some cookie-cutter audio which was really nice.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a game I can easily see someone dropping a lot of time into and like many MMOs and FPS titles its better with friends. Three friends can get together forming a Platoon over Xbox Live so you can deal out damage in tactical fashion in randomly selected maps and modes. In the time that I played I came across some really good teams of random strangers and things went remarkably well though not always. Friends make things a lot easier though and it’s always a good idea to use like leveled tanks as you’re matched with other players according to tank tiers. While the maps may vary based on your tank tier there are only three game modes available to play. You have Standard which tasks the two teams to take the other’s base while the Encounter has either side pushing to take control of a single neutral base. The third mode Assault is a game of attacking or defending a single base, although all modes ultimately end when one side or the other is completely destroyed.

After playing World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition for the past few weeks, I can easily say that my initial impressions of the game from my time with the Beta have held up spectacularly. The only way that this game could get any better would be perhaps a graphically facelift and more destructible objects in light of the new generation of consoles to keep this game exciting for some time to come. The game handles remarkably well after you get the hang of things and it’s fairly easy to learn the ropes while you play, even for new players looking to join the fun. If you have Xbox Live Gold and a love for things that go boom, then I absolutely recommend checking out World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition available now on the Xbox 360 Marketplace.

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SHOOTERS JUST GOT WEIRD – PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES GARDEN WARFARE NOW AVAILABLE FOR XBOX ONE AND XBOX 360

PopCap Games, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. today released Plants vs. Zombies™ Garden Warfare, a best-in-class multiplayer shooter that combines the power of the Frostbite™ 3 engine with the fresh humor, wild action and vibrant landscapes of the incredibly popular Plants vs. Zombies series. Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare lets players choose a side and wage all-out war on their plant or zombie enemies in a variety of gameplay modes and with a jaw-dropping arsenal of outrageous weapons. 

“Creating a shooter based on the Plants vs. Zombies franchise was something few people would have ever expected, but we think the real surprise will come when fans get their hands-on the game,” said Brian Lindley, Producer on Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare. “While it’s a totally different genre for the series, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare is every bit as accessible as the original game and offers the same level of depth, strategy and insane fun fans expect from the Plants vs. Zombies universe.”

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare features adored favorites in the series, such as the Peashooter and Sunflower, along with a new cast of characters including Ice Cactus, Hot Rod Chomper and all the Zombies players can get their hands on. Players can jump into three distinct modes including two 12 vs. 12 competitive multiplayer modes called “Garden & Graveyards” and “Team Vanquish,” or a four-player co-operative mode called “Garden Ops.” An amazingly deep set of customization options gives players an opportunity to personalize plants and zombies with fun costumes, items, hats and more, some of which give all-new abilities to each of the characters.

Two additional modes will be available exclusively on Xbox® One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft. The first allows for local cooperative split screen so players can team up with a friend on the couch, and the second is Boss Mode which allows for a third friend to join via a SmartGlass device to support their teams with a top-down view of the battlefield from where they can drop health, artillery strikes and more. Boss mode is also available on Kinect for a full screen experience.

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare is now available for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment systems in North America. A digital version of the game can be downloaded for Xbox One or Xbox 360. A PC version will be available at a later date. Join the Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare community at https://www.facebook.com/GardenWarfarePvZ and follow us on Twitter @PlantsvsZombies. For information about Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare visit http://www.popcap.com/plants-vs-zombies-garden-warfare.

ASSASSIN’S CREED LIBERATION HD AVAILABLE NOW – Launch Trailer

Today, Ubisoft® announced that Assassin’s Creed® Liberation HD, the striking chapter in the pre–American Revolution Assassin’s Creed® saga, is now available for download on PlayStation®Network, Xbox Live online entertainment network for the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC.

Completely remastered in stunning high definition with improved gameplay mechanics and missions, Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD delivers an immersive Assassin’s Creed storyline for only $19.99. This is the definitive Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD experience.

As Aveline, the first playable female Assassin in the Assassin’s Creed saga, you must use your skill, instinct and weaponry – including a machete, poison-dart blowpipe, a whip and dueling pistols – to hunt down and eliminate your enemies as you embark on an unforgettable journey that will take you from the crowded streets of New Orleans through voodoo-haunted swamps and ancient Mayan ruins.

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! Review – Xbox 360

In all of my years of reviewing games, I do not think that I have ever come across a ridiculously ambiguous game title as “Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW!” that somehow within one hour of popping the disc in made perfect sense.   This Adventure Time title is that very game, because while the title may make no sense at the outset, it quickly becomes clear that really is no purpose whatsoever to the dungeon exploration this title promises.

Let’s start by saying that on paper, Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! has all the ingredients that should make for a fantastic old-school dungeon crawler along the lines of the classic Zelda and Gauntlet titles.  With its retro 8/16-bit graphics (think: NES/Super NES-era visuals as showcased in last year’s phenomenal Scott Pilgrim vs. The World games), and gameplay that allows up to four players to hack and slash their way through 100 levels of dungeon goodness, what could go wrong?

Well, plenty so it turns out…

The game looks good, and even plays fine, per se – but a proper dungeon crawler Adventure Time is not.  I can forgive the lack of RPG elements such as character leveling and the lame loot collection mechanic, as things need to be made a bit simpler for the younger crowd.  I mean, the Lego titles use pretty much the same formula and it seems to work just fine for them – but in some odd way, the in-game play of Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! lacks the same heart and soul that make the Lego games so endearing, rendering this Adventure Time title to a mindless exercise in dungeon wandering tedium.

Admittedly, while I do watch a lot of television with my children, Adventure Time is not one of the shows I enjoy.  So, maybe I am a bit biased because I don’t have an attachment to the characters like a real fan would.  But my children are very familiar with the characters and even they seemed lost in the mindlessly wandering gameplay that seemed to serve little purpose other than to stand as filler between the moderately entertaining NES-esque cut scenes segments.

The story is simple – Princess Bubblegum summons Adventure Time leads Finn and Jake as well as a couple of friends, Flame Princess and Lemongrab, to help her with a problem.  Apparently, all this time, Bubblegum has been imprisoning hoards of monsters in an underground labyrinth beneath her castle.   The monsters have begun escaping, and she needs the help of Finn and company to put the monsters back in their place.

The story is told with voiceovers that appear to be from the actual actors in the show – and they are actually quite good, at least in the game’s cut scenes, that is.  The in-game dialog and effects, on the other hand, are not so impressive.  In fact, they become quite irritating after the 100th or so time the same phrase is uttered or the identical sound effect is sampled.  Maybe this is supposed to be another nod to the old school gamers in the audience, but as someone who actually lived through that era in gaming it is a nod that was really not necessary.

Like the cut scenes, the in-game visuals are reminiscent of the early NES era Zelda titles, only with an Adventure Time motif.  The characters are not necessarily sprite-based as they were in the old days, but are decidedly lo-res, lending to the old-school thematic.  The music is also reminiscent of the old 8-bit tunes, which gave the game an added sense of nostalgia for older gamers like me.

As I mentioned earlier, the real problem with Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is that the gameplay is so formulaic and bland that it could be easily mistaken for a 99-cent smartphone app rather than the moderately-priced console game that it is.  The gameplay is broken into 100 levels (dungeons) over 5 environments that change every 20th level – although none are particularly different from each other in execution  Every 5th level, gamers are allowed to head back to the game hub to spend any loot (money) they have collected, but these items only make the gameplay even easier.  Every 10th level, a new boss appears – but they seldom pose any difficulty.  As you can see, there’s just nothing here that really stands out as something special.

I so wanted – for my children – for Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! to be a cool experience.  I’m always in search of good, clean, low-violence games for them to play cooperatively.  Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! almost hit bullet on my list, it just wasn’t all that good, and definitely not even interesting or unique enough to hold their attention.

Why anyone would want to spend a weekend exploring these dungeons, I don’t know!

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